Category Archives: Tech Integration

When Technology Doesn’t Work

All of us who work with technology in an education setting (or any other setting for that matter) have had the experience of standing in front of a group of students and having the technology we planned on using fail.

It’s embarrassing, to be sure, but how we handle this kind of situation, especially in front of school age students, can make all the difference between a merely unfortunate incident and an incident that causes students to become negative toward the particular application we were trying to use.

It is important to model a calm attitude while at the same time thinking fast about options to resolve or exit from the activity.

Many tests and assessments are now delivered electronically and students catch on pretty fast that some of these can be pretty high stakes.  The last thing we want to do is to cause students to become anxious or unfocused.  So, when the test engine isn’t working, it’s important for the person in charge to stay in charge and help the students to feel that everything will work out in the end.

Sometimes, the best plan is to put off testing for another time.  In other situations, it may just be necessary to delay until things are fixed and working.

Keep calm and carry on

Keep calm and carry on – from Wikimedia Commons.

The younger the students, the shorter the wait must be, so it is always best to have an exit plan in case things don’t work.  When the technical difficulties are fixed, a positive attitude about the second try goes a long way toward helping students’ confidence and will likely also help to maximize their performance.

“Keep calm and carry on” was the slogan used by the British government prior to the Second World War to improve general morale, and the sentiment also works well when technology doesn’t.

Supporting Teachers with Technology Integration

In the years that I have supported teachers, principals and other education staff with technology, I have discovered that most of the people fall into one of four categories: Reluctant/Minimal users, Average users, Power users, and, if you are lucky, Advanced users.

While each of these categories have specific needs, the single most helpful thing that I have learned is that if you can find a specific need that the teacher has and help the teacher to meet that need more easily, you will have sold them on the benefit of a specific technology.

Spending time talking to teachers, listening to their needs and concerns and establishing an empathy with them is the best way to begin to understand what they need and want from technology.

Reluctant/Minimal Users

Back in the prehistoric era of Windows 95 and Windows 98, reluctant users were distinct from minimal users.  The reluctant user was not at all interested in using technology, except for the occasional film strip or movie. I remember one teacher that was so adverse to technology that I literally had to move his hand to show him how to manipulate the mouse.

Nowadays, most of these reluctant users have either advanced to a higher level or have retired from education.  Since there are so few truly reluctant users left, I group them with the minimal users.

So, how can we best support the reluctant or minimal technology user?  In my opinion, the best way to get these people to use technology is to show them one or two ways that technology makes their work easier.  For some teachers their need may be to facilitate the use of an electronic grade book.  For others it may be an application that helps the teacher develop customized instructional materials (e.g. word processing, desktop publishing, or presentation software).

The key is to listen to the teacher and find what the teacher needs or wants and then provide an easy solution focused on that need or desire.

Average Users

The average user is willing to make use of technology and probably already does to some extent.  Many of this type have a rather low opinion of their own technology skills and knowledge.  If the average user is enthusiastic about technology, they can be a joy to work with.

Average users can often be afraid of making mistakes or breaking the computer.  Sometimes the best thing you can do to support them is to show them how to fix minor mistakes and encourage them not to fear breaking the machine.

Average users may not always use the best tool for the job or they may not know the more advanced techniques that can make their technology use more productive and enjoyable.  As with the minimal users, the best course is often to watch and listen and then provide strategies that make the teacher’s work easier.

Power Users

Power Users have skills and the interest to make use of technology and often need little help.  However, they may discover that a particular task is difficult and ask if there is an easier way.  Power Users benefit from specific techniques that help them to meet their needs and often request more advanced training on software applications that they use.

Power Users can often become peer mentors to other teachers, so the time spent with them is well worth the effort.

Advanced Users

Advanced users are probably your peers.  They are self-starters and are completely capable of picking up new technology on their own. Give them what they need, eliminate obstacles and challenge them to become peer mentors.

[To be continued]